Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Life and the pursuit of Happiness!

What is the meaning of life?  What are we here for?  What makes a life well lived?

These are questions that major religions and philosophies have been trying to answer for years.  And, like many other things, I don't think there is a single 'right' answer...except for this:  do what makes you happy.

I'm not talking about momentary happiness or pleasure or any of those types of things.  I'm talking about that deep sense of contentment, that inner joy of being exactly where you need to be at any given moment.

And that is another part of it:  start where you are.  We all have dreams that are still beyond our reach.  We hope and plan for the future.  But we are all somewhere right now.  And step one to living a good life is making the most of where are you are. 

We all face setbacks.  We all have times that aren't so fun.  Sometimes it's not about chasing the joy but seeking the meaning and through the lessons we learn, finding a purpose that helps us make the moment worth it. 

Worth is a very subjective thing.  No one else in the world can tell you what something is worth to you or what will make you happy.  We all have our own personal challenges and triumphs.  What might be bliss for one person could be another person's personal nightmare.  When someone else talks down about something you are enjoying, acknowledge their perspective, but don't let it cling to you.  It is okay to enjoy things other people don't like.

I like the idea of following your bliss, but I would caution to really dig deep and see what your heart and soul desire, not just your mind and body.  There are a ton of things that I enjoy, that I can spend hours doing and have a blast.  Some of these things are but momentary pleasures...they don't feed my soul in any lasting way.  And while I definitely indulge, I find that if I do them for too long, I will have killed a lot of time and walk away feeling empty.  The thing that was supposed to be bringing joy to my life instead robbed me of it.

This is because I wasn't listening deep enough.  Lack of deep attention can also mean that we miss the joy that is beneath the surface when things are hard.  Work is hard.  Many people are not working in a field they would do as a hobby.  They have a job in order to fulfill their needs.  Many people pick their jobs, not because of the work itself, but because of the benefits (pay, time off, other perks).  The work can be seen as an action that is giving those benefits, and when you stop thinking of it as X hours in the day that you are stuck working and instead try to find little joys throughout your day, your job becomes less of a chore and more of an opportunity.

This is one place where my stubbornness becomes a two-edges sword.  On the one hand, I get a sense of joy by doing a good job.  I like putting myself to a task and seeing progress.  I personally don't really enjoy cleaning, but sometimes I will see something and it will bug me until I get it clean.  Last night, this was our stove.  We have a glass-top stove, and though I clean it after every time we cook, spills and splatters still happen (plus we weren't the first to use it).  Over the years, residue has built up and burnt on.  And last night I had enough.

At first, I was really into it.  I was seeing big results, and had this image in my head of a brand new looking stove top!  But thirty minutes in, my fingers and back were sore, and I couldn't see progress anymore.  There were still black marks on the glass, and I could still feel rings when I ran my fingers across the glass.  But enough was enough.  I realized it was time to let that last bit go (at least for now). 

I believe this balance, between momentary pleasure, duty and deep bliss, is important spiritually.  I think there is a perception that being spiritual is hard work.  And I do think that it is!  But there comes a point when you aren't working towards something anymore, but just working to work.  And then it sort of becomes 'work to show how spiritual I am'.  And I don't think that is beneficial to anyone.

Look within, and see where you are called to.  Listen to your heart to see what will bring the most joy into your life.  And do the work that will get you there.  While you are doing the work, find ways to see the joy in the moment!  And when the moment passes, when the work becomes a burden, set it down for a bit.  Do something else to refresh yourself, and go back renewed!  Find what makes your spirit sing and move in that direction!

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